The Center for Grassroots Oversight

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Profile: Alvin Onaka

Alvin Onaka was a participant or observer in the following events:

A photograph of the actual Hawaiian birth certificate of Barack Obama, being held by FactCheck (.org) writer Joe Miller.A photograph of the actual Hawaiian birth certificate of Barack Obama, being held by FactCheck (.org) writer Joe Miller. [Source: FactCheck (.org)]FactCheck (.org), a non-partisan arm of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, certifies that its experts have verified that the birth certificate released by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is valid (see June 13, 2008). Since the release of the digitally scanned image, a firestorm of controversy (see July 20, 2008) has erupted over the authenticity of the certificate, even after Hawaiian officials verified its validity (see June 27, 2008) and the discovery of a printed birth announcement from a Honolulu newspaper (see July 2008). FactCheck notes that much of the controversy has been sparked by author Jerome Corsi, whose recent book Obamanation makes a host of negative claims against Obama (see August 1, 2008 and After), and who has told a Fox News interviewer that the birth certificate the campaign has is “fake” (see August 15, 2008). FactCheck releases the following statement: “We beg to differ. FactCheck.org staffers have now seen, touched, examined, and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving US citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as ‘supporting documents’ to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the USA just as he has always said.” The actual certificate is in the hands of Obama campaign officials in Chicago, FactCheck reports, and has the proper seals and signature from Hawaiian registrar Alvin Onaka.
Certificate Meets Requirements for State Department Passport Issuance - FactCheck reports: “The certificate has all the elements the State Department requires for proving citizenship to obtain a US passport: ‘your full name, the full name of your parent(s), date and place of birth, sex, date the birth record was filed, and the seal or other certification of the official custodian of such records.’ The names, date and place of birth, and filing date are all evident on the scanned version, and you can see the seal above” in a photograph reproduced on FactCheck’s Web site.
'Short Form' Certificate - The copy possessed by the Obama campaign is called a “short form birth certificate.” The so-called “long form” is created by the hospital in which a child is born, and includes additional information such as birth weight and parents’ hometowns. The short form is what is provided by Hawaiian officials upon receiving a valid request for a birth certificate: It “is printed by the state and draws from a database with fewer details. The Hawaii Department of Health’s birth record request form does not give the option to request a photocopy of your long-form birth certificate, but their short form has enough information to be acceptable to the State Department.”
Scan Artifacts - The digitally scanned version released by the Obama campaign does indeed show “halos” around the black-text lettering, prompting some to claim that the text may have been copied onto an image of security paper. However, FactCheck writes, “the document itself has no such halos, nor do the close-up photos we took of it. We conclude that the halo seen in the image produced by the campaign is a digital artifact from the scanning process.”
Date Stamp, Blacked-Out Certificate Number - The digital scan also contains an unusual date stamp and a blacked-out certificate number. Campaign spokesperson Shauna Daly explains that the certificate is stamped July 2007 because that is when Hawaiian officials produced it for the presidential campaign. The campaign did not release a copy until mid-2008, leading some to speculate that the date stamp proved the digital scan was a forgery. Of the certificate number, Daly says that the campaign “couldn’t get someone on the phone in Hawaii to tell us whether the number represented some secret information, and we erred on the side of blacking it out. Since then we’ve found out it’s pretty irrelevant for the outside world.” FactCheck writes, “The document we looked at did have a certificate number; it is 151 1961 - 010641.”
'African' Father - Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., is listed on the certificate as “African,” sparking claims that Obama is actually of Kenyan citizenship. Kurt Tsue of the Hawaii Department of Health tells FactCheck that the father and mother’s race are told to officials by the parents, and thusly “we accept what the parents self identify themselves to be.” FactCheck writes: “We consider it reasonable to believe that Barack Obama Sr. would have thought of and reported himself as ‘African.’ It’s certainly not the slam dunk some readers have made it out to be.”
Differences in Borders - The “security borders” on the digital scan do indeed look slightly different from other examples of Hawaii birth certificates. Tsue explains: “The borders are generated each time a certified copy is printed. A citation located on the bottom left hand corner of the certificate indicates which date the form was revised.” He also confirms that the information in the short form birth certificate is sufficient to prove citizenship for “all reasonable purposes.” (FactCheck (.org) 8/21/2008)

Hawaii’s Director of Health Dr. Chiyome Fukino says she and the registrar of vital statistics, Alvin Onaka, have personally verified that the Hawaii Department of Health holds Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)‘s original birth certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, and August 21, 2008). Fukino says that she has “personally seen and verified that the Department of Health has Senator Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.” Fukino and Onaka thereby verify that Obama is, indeed, an American citizen. Fukino releases the statement in an attempt to stem the tide of conspiracy theories that assert Obama is not a US citizen—“birtherism”—and therefore cannot be eligible to be president. Fukino adds that no state official, including Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI), ever issued instructions that Obama’s certificate be handled differently. Hawaii state law prohibits the release of the so-called “long form” birth certificate to anyone who does not have a tangible interest; state law says that the “short form” the state releases to its citizens, and that Obama has long ago made public (see June 13, 2008), is legal and valid in and of itself. State courts in Ohio, Pennsylvania (see August 21-24, 2008), and Washington State have recently dismissed court challenges to Obama’s citizenship. (FactCheck (.org) 8/21/2008; Associated Press 10/31/2008) Fukino tells a Honolulu reporter: “This has gotten ridiculous (see July 20, 2008). There are plenty of other, important things to focus on, like the economy, taxes, energy.” Asked if this “[w]ill be enough to quiet the doubters,” Fukino responds: “I hope so. We need to get some work done.” (FactCheck (.org) 8/21/2008)

Chiyome Fukino, the former head of Hawaii’s Department of Health, who has verified that President Obama’s “short form” birth certificate is valid time and again (see October 30, 2008, July 28, 2009, and April 11, 2011), tells the press that months ago, Obama’s “long form” birth certificate was moved to a more secure location within a dual combination-key lock safe inside the state’s health department vault. The “long form” certificate is, by Hawaiian law, kept on file and not released to anyone, even the person whose certificate it is (see July 1, 2009); the Hawaiian government recently made an exception for Obama, who released the “long form” certificate to the public hours before Fukino’s announcement (see April 27, 2011). The certificate was moved to the vault in February 2011 by State Registrar Alvin Onaka in response to an overwhelming number of requests by media outlets and others to see it. “It is my understanding that the book has been placed in a smaller locked container in the same secure safe,” Fukino says. “The safe is still in the department.” She says that the additional security measure reduces the number of people with access to the much-sought-after document from a handful to just one: Onaka himself. Health Director Loretta J. Fuddy granted Obama permission to have two official copies of the “long form” certificate, an action Attorney General David Louie says “was done according to the letter of the law.” Until the Obama certificate release, Hawaii had not given anyone a copy of the “long form” certificate since converting to electronic records, a process that began in 1989 and ended in 2001. Fukino says that during her term as health director, Obama’s birth certificate was moved from a file vault, where bound books containing vital records line the shelves in handwritten, leather-bound ledgers, in colors chosen over the course of decades, and placed inside the vault’s five-foot-tall, grey, metal combination and key lock safe that holds money and other valuables. “After the 2008 elections, the Department of Health received a significant number of requests for a copy of President Obama’s original birth registration by individuals who believe that the president is not a US citizen,” Fukino says. “To assure the safety of the record, the bound volume was removed from the file vault and placed into a fireproof safe with limited access.” Fukino is one of the very few people to have viewed the “long form” certificate before it was released to public view. There are 35 volumes of 1961 birth certificates, each containing 500 certificates. Governor Neil Abercrombie says in a statement: “Considering all of the investigations that have been done and the information that has been provided, no rational person can question the president’s citizenship. We have found a way—once again—to confirm what we already knew: the president was born here in Hawaii. State officials of both parties have verified that President Obama’s birth records show that he was born in Honolulu. President Obama’s mother and father were dear friends of mine (see December 24, 2010), and we must respect their memory. It is an insult to the president, his parents, and to the Office to suggest that he was not born in Hawaii. The State of Hawaii has done everything within our legal ability to disabuse these conspiracy theorists. We granted the president’s request for certified copies of his birth certificate so we can all move on from this unfortunate distraction and focus on the real issues affecting people today.” (Winter 4/27/2011)


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